An Embarrassment of Riches: Tapping Into the World's Greatest Legacy of Wealth
Tune into the news and you’ll hear stories of war, disease, natural disasters, corruption, violence, poverty, crime, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and political dysfunction in Washington. Polls show many believe the American dream is fading, our children face limited opportunities, and the country is decidedly on the wrong track. Yet this dour perspective – one recycled 24/7 by the national media – is a gross distortion of the world we live in today.
As national investment expert and bestselling author Alexander Green reveals in this engrossing and provocative new book, the human race has never had it so good. In the West today, we work shorter hours, have more purchasing power, enjoy goods and services in almost limitless supply, and have more leisure time than ever before. Living standards are the highest they have ever been. The human life span has nearly doubled over the past hundred years. Literacy and education levels – even I.Q.’s – are at all-time highs. Technology and medicine are revolutionizing our lives. All forms of pollution – with the exception of greenhouse gases – are in decline. Access to the arts has never been greater. Crime is in a long-term cycle of decline. And the risk of death by violence has never been smaller for most of humanity.
By almost every measure, our lives today are wealthy beyond measure. We are all heir to an embarrassment of riches. Yet – thanks in large part the drumbeat of negative media coverage – most of us don’t realize it. Green compares the average citizen to “a lottery winner whose ticket is lost in some upstairs drawer.”
The consequences of adopting the cynical but popular worldview are many, including needless pessimism, missed investment opportunities, and – surprisingly – even poorer health. Yet An Embarrassment of Riches provides a powerful antidote.
Green begins with a robust survey of the many ways our lives are becoming longer, easier, safer, healthier and more prosperous. He then embarks on a wide-ranging exploration of the ideas and the many men and women – both living and dead – that are still enriching our lives today.
Among the many subjects explored are American exceptionalism, the extraordinary power of economic freedom, the lifesaving role of medicine and technology, the life-extending benefits of optimism, the radical theology of Thomas Jefferson, the keys to civility and greatness, the wisdom of Confucius and Aristotle, the ability of beauty to enrich our lives, and even one artist’s thought-provoking take on “how to defeat death.”
In An Embarrassment of Riches, New York Times bestselling author Alexander Green offers a holistic approach to wealth – and offers a welcome perspective that allows us to live fuller, richer lives.
PART ONE: A WEALTH OF GRATITUDE 1
A Message from the Land of the Unwell 3
The Reason You Should Be Biased 7
What We Live to Discover 11
Like No Other Nation in the World 15
How to Put a Touch of Glory in Your Life 19
The Greatest Star of Them All 22
The Man Who Invented Christmas 26
Do You Know Where You Are? 29
The Mind-Boggling Universe, Part II 32
The Best That Has Been Thought and Said 35
A Titan for Freedom and Prosperity 39
The Great Key to Successful Living 43
What You Can Learn from “The Gadfl y of Athens” 46
The True Rulers of the Planet 50
Confessions of an Analog Man 54
How to Be Miserable in One Easy Lesson 58
For Music Lovers Only 61
PART TWO: A WEALTH OF WISDOM 65
Where Can Wisdom Be Found? 69
Discovering a New Sense of the Sacred 73
The Cash Value of the American Mind 76
The Key to Civility … and Greatness 79
How to Defeat Death 83
The Sage Who Spoke to Everyman 86
The Greatest Best Seller of All Time 90
The Pursuit of Moral Perfection 94
How Apple Got Its Zen 97
The Secret of “Big-Ass Salads” 101
Take a Vacation Inside Your Head 107
The Biggest Question of Them All 111
A Requiem for an Atheist 115
The Nation’s Most Misunderstood Man 120
Why Grant’s Final Victory Was His Greatest 124
The Other Freedom Document of 1776 129
The Right Man at the Right Time 134
The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do for Your Body 137
The “Howling Atheist” Who Governed the Country 143
PART THREE: A WEALTH OF UNDERSTANDING 149
Why You Love and Need the Rat Race 153
How to Live the “Good Life” 156
Nassim Nicholas Taleb … and the Pursuit of Phronesis 159
The Gift a Man Gives Himself 162
A Billionaire’s Best Advice 165
The Lost Art of Conversation 168
A Visit Everyone Should Make 172
The Man Who Made Dreams Come True 176
How to Talk Politics without Committing Murder 180
The True Secret of Success 184
How to Be a Big Loser 188
Three Words That Will Save Your Life 193
Are You Awake? 196
The One Factor That Changes Everything 200
The Lies We Tell Ourselves 205
How the First Americans Became Last 208
The Top Five Regrets of the Dying 213
A Short Lesson in Humility 217
Further Reading 223
About the Author 227
ALEXANDER GREEN is the Chief Investment Strategist of The Oxford Club and the author of three national bestsellers: The Gone Fishin' Portfolio, The Secret of Shelter Island and Beyond Wealth. He has been featured on Oprah & Friends, Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, CNBC, MSNBC, and C-SPAN and has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, and many other publications. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Winter Springs, Florida, with his wife Karen and their children, Hannah and David.
Tune into the news and it seems the only coverage is that of war, disease, natural disasters, corruption, violence, poverty, crime, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and political dysfunction in Washington. Polls show that many believe the American dream is fading, future generations face limited opportunities, and the country is decidedly on the wrong track. Author Alexander Green argues that this dour perspective is a gross distortion of the world we live in today.
As national investment expert and New York Times bestselling author Alexander Green reveals in his engrossing and provocative new book, An Embarrassment of Riches: Tapping Into the World's Greatest Legacy of Wealth(WILEY; November 2013; Hardcover & e-book; ISBN: 978-1-118-60882-1; $34.95), the human race has never had it so good.
“Like a lottery winner whose ticket is lost in some upstairs drawer, you can’t claim your fortune—or appreciate it—if you aren’t aware of it. Literacy and education levels—even I.Q.s—are at all-time highs. Access to the arts has never been greater. Crime is in a long-term cycle of decline. And the risk of death by violence has never been smaller for most of humanity,” says Green. “The overwhelming majority of us are far better fed, sheltered, entertained, and protected against disease than our grandparents. In sum, the world we live in is rich by almost every measure. Our circumstances are not just fortuitous, but extraordinary. We should all recognize this and remember it. Human beings have never had it so good. Our lives are bountiful beyond measure.”
An Embarrassment of Riches begins with a robust survey of the many ways our lives are becoming longer, easier, safer, healthier, and more prosperous. Green then embarks on a wide-ranging exploration of the ideas and the many men and women—both living and dead—enriching our lives today. Among the many subjects explored in over 50 essays in the book are the radical theologies of Thomas Jefferson and the wisdom of Confusions and Aristotle.
“The four most basic human economic needs—food, clothing, fuel, and shelter—have been getting steadily cheaper for years. And thanks to advances in medicine and public safety, we are enjoying the greatest human accomplishment of all time: the near doubling of the average life span over the past 100 years,” explains Green. “Living standards today are the highest they have ever been, including for the middle class and for the poor. Yes, the median family net worth suffered a hit following the financial crisis of 2008, but with home prices bouncing back and the stock market more than doubling from its lows, prosperity is on the rise again.”
Green adds, “Technology is revolutionizing our lives. Thirty years ago, most people didn’t have a personal computer. Twenty years ago, the majority didn’t have a cell phone. Ten years ago, most didn’t have a high-speed Internet connection. We can’t even imagine all the technological advances that lie just ahead. We underestimate the power of human ingenuity and the incentives that society provides for problem solvers. Instead we tend to focus on the daily white noise of setbacks, problems and negative developments, missing the big story in the process.”
The consequences of adopting the cynical but popular worldview are many, including needless pessimism, missed investment opportunities, and—surprisingly—even poorer health. Yet An Embarrassment of Riches provides a powerful antidote. If born into the affluent West, one lives in a world that is vastly richer, easier, and more comfortable than those of the West’s forebears’. No doubt everyone has family problems, or financial troubles or health issues, but people have always dealt with predicaments like these and usually in a milieu much more difficult than those now.
An Embarrassment of Riches shows that whatever problems one is grappling with, whatever may be wrong in one’s life, it can only be improved by recognizing that we are all heir to an enormously rich social, political, economic, scientific, technological and cultural legacy. In countless ways—both large and small—today’s generations are among the most fortunate people who have ever lived.